Disappointing gorilla hair mulch

jeff_zephyrMay 5, 2010

I decided to try gorilla hair mulch around my roses last year. It was highly recommended by the garden center. After a year of observation, I am really disappointed.

The biggest problem is that this mulch forms a waterproof barrier. Water gets trapped in the gorilla hair instead of percolating into the ground. This is a big problem for a dry climate like mine. Numerous times after it rained, I would lift the gorilla hair mulch only to see how dry the earth underneath was.

Weed actually grows on the gorilla hair! Weeding was actually challenging this year, because the unwanted grass and weeds actually root into the gorilla hair. As a result, I ended up throwing away quite a bit of mulch along with the weed.

Last, in our windy and dry environment, the gorilla hair actually gets blown away. I have to buy more mulch to replace the sections that disappeared.

Conclusion: I'll never buy this product again because it is a waste of money and time.


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    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 12:26PM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

So when it broke down it would be a slow release of N from the proteins...maybe a primate equivalent of feathers.

It can be shredded redwood bark OR recycled shredded redwood.

Can you just imagine the neighborhood dogs sniffing gorilla hair mulch?

Here is a link that might be useful: One link for the recycled stuff

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:11PM
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hahaha I had to look up "gorilla hair mulch" because I was sure you were talking about actual hair from a gorilla!

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience trying a new mulch, I always get frustrated when someone "Highly Recommends" a product and it turns out to be junk.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:14PM
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vuwugarden(Central TX 8b)

Thanks, Jeff. Good information. I don't see it being sold locally here, but if I do, I will stay FAR FAR AWAY. Thanks for the heads-up on the gorilla hair mulch.

Do you have any other experiences with other types of mulch that you want to let us new gardeners know? I currently buy what's on sale.

I should do the water check as you do after a rain to see if the water penetrates below the mulch.

I look forward to your answer and other experiences from folks on this forum as well.

Many thanks!


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:15PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Stay away from clothes-dryer lint, too. Just not durable enough.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:23PM
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teeandcee(Florida 9b)

Lol, I had to look up gorilla hair mulch also since everything you said about it fit with actual hair (mats, waterproof, blown away by wind). I was going to ask if you lived near a zoo and HOW MUCH you paid for it.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:25PM
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newtie(z8+ MS)

I've just sent off for two gorillas. How much do you suppose the feeding and Vet bills will come to, and will I be able to harvest enough hair to mulch all 100 of my roses?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:38PM
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Never heard of it either. Thanks for the information, in case I ever do see it.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:38PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Might keep the deer out of the garden....


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:50PM
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Carol's right, gorillas would definitely keep deer out of your garden :D

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 6:43PM
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organic_tosca(9/Sunset 14)

It's taken me a full ten minutes to pull myself together and stop laughing. TOO MUCH! as we used to say in the days of my youth.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 7:48PM
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brother_cadfael(z5 seWI)

My question is ...

Who's the poor sap that they hired to shave all these gorillas?



    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 8:38PM
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LOL! I wish it would keep the deer away. No such luck, as they nibbled happily on the roses without having to leave tell-tale footprints on account of the mulch.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 9:21PM
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buford(7 NE GA)


But any mulch will absorb the water first and unless it's a heavy rain it will not penetrate. During our drought, we were advised to had water under the mulch, or move the mulch away from around the plants to water.

I have coconut husk mulch in one spot and I do like it. But we've had lots of rain recently, so I haven't noticed any watering problems.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 11:18PM
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vuwugarden(Central TX 8b)

Uh, so this was a joke?

At dinner I suggested to my honey that I may look into gorilla hair as a mulch to test it out for myself.

He almost spit out the soup (or was it my cooking?)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 11:57AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

No, not a joke, it's a marketing name someone made up to sell shredded wood products as a premium mulch.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 12:05PM
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Here's what the University of California Extension Office says about gorilla hair mulch:

"A related product is shredded cedar or âÂÂGorilla hair.â As a gorillaâÂÂs coat helps shed water and protect him from the elements, the bark with the similar name also tends to shed water, making it a good choice for a hillside, but not so good for moisture loving flower beds. Water wonâÂÂt make it through the mulch to the roots of plants"

So probably some better mulch choices out there.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Gorilla hair ia actually a very useful mulch on a slope. It locks together and doesn't slide down the hill easily the way most mulches will. I don't like it in a garden either, for lots of reasons including the ones mentioned here. The one that bothers me the most is that I get splinters from it all the time. I tried it once years ago, just as you did, and will never buy it again.

It is popular. I don;t know why. I do think that the garden center salesperson gave you the recommendation in good faith. They aren't always gardeners themselves. It probably is all right if you have drip emitters under it. For spray or rainfall, it is not good.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 2:58PM
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I agree about Gorilla hair not being the best mulch... but one thing it does very well is remain on a hillside - where any other kind of bark tends to wash/migrate downslope Gorilla hair will over time mat down and stay in place.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:43PM
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Hah! This is so funny. Jeff, if you're in CA, I assume you got the Gorilla Hair mulch that's from Redi-Gro in Sacramento. It's supposed to be shredded redwood. We carry it at the Ace Hardware store where I work. I've never used it, and now I'm glad I didn't try it! If your garden center orders other products from Redi-Gro, I would recommend trying the Redi-Gro Mulch if they have it. It's a finely shredded/chopped cedar mulch, I believe. I use it alot around my roses. It looks nice and retains moisture very well.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 11:48AM
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Man, there's some wierd stuff happening out there in California!

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Musings

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:31PM
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It is recommended as mulch for native plants in California. It is a by-product of milling redwood for lumber. For roses, I would stick to something else.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 9:01PM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

I noticed that with any kind of bark mulch there can be a problem with water not reaching the soil. I almost killed Young Lycidas before realizing that the poor thing had bone dry soil around it in spite of my faithful and very frequent hand watering. I've found that a combination of bark and vegetable matter is a better idea, and if I had enough leaves from my trees I wouldn't bother with purchased mulch at all.

Since I live near Wild Animal Park, I'm tempted to bribe the keepers to shave some of the gentler gorillas. I have a feeling the real thing would work much better than what you can buy in a bag. Since it's so hot the gorillas would feel much more airy without all that hair.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 9:14PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

So kind of like pine straw, good on hills because it will stay put, but not for beds.

I use mostly bark mulch, but I've been buying a brand that is engineered to not keep water away from the plants. So far so good.

I did like the coconut coir mulch, but it was kind of a pain to do at first (it's compressed and you have to soak it so it expands). However, I've been on a real coconut kick lately and I've been saving the husks and will try to break them up and use as mulch. I think they will not break down so easily....

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 8:43AM
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It feels nice to walk on. it's thick and springy. But it's very splintery to handle and tricky to shovel. I think it looks nice on slopes.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 10:26AM
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As has been mentioned, ANY mulch, with insufficient rainfall or sprinkler levels, can prevent the water from actually reaching the soil. There must be enough physical water to wet the mulch, exceed the amount the mulch is going to absorb and actually percolate through it into the soil. The same thing happens in the woods with the forest litter if the rain hasn't been heavy enough to provide enough water to penetrate that "mulch".

Wind in many areas is a constant battle. Of course, smaller, lighter pieces of any mulch will blow in strong winds. They also break down faster than large chunks or shards, which can seem as though they've "blown away". Try drier oak leaves or rice hulls if you really want a battle with the wind! A commercial "planter mix" I used to buy contained rice hulls. I had a truck load delivered to the old garden. The wind quickly took the surface layer of rice hulls from that pile, leaving sand particles and heavier pieces of shredded wood shards it contained, resembling a "desert pavement" surface.

I've used Gorilla Hair in many applications and found it excellent around roses and other landscape areas needing cover. It doesn't move downhill with gravity as easily as bark nuggets or chunks do. It isn't as easily knocked around by dogs running through it as bark. It doesn't provide as large spaces as bark to catch litter and provide insect hiding places. It requires less product (hence lower cost) to provide the appropriate protection against heat and water loss than chunks or nuggets. It doesn't attract dogs like manures can. Weeds and other seeds can germinate on any fibrous or fine textured materials, but they are significantly easier to pull up with their roots intact from a horse manure, compost or Gorilla Hair mulch surface than from hard baked soil. It remains fibrous so water penetrates it easily, provided there is enough water to being with. You do have to irrigate sufficiently to penetrate whatever material you choose as a mulch. In my climate, you can't rely upon the "rains" to do it properly because they just aren't happening as they used to.

The bags I've most recently seen have contained either cedar or fir product in place of the original redwood. Those two types are more quickly replaced than redwood and hadn't been suspected as potential carriers for Sudden Oak Death as redwood had. Redwood used to be inexpensive and easily found everywhere for bender board, fencing and general lumber. Fir and cedar have replaced it in many uses, so the "left overs" are generally more readily available and at better prices. Kim

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 1:17PM
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In addition to being the most water repellant mulch I have ever used, those little splinters also work their way into your skin. They itch for days.

In a year or two, or maybe three, it will be all gone, decomposed into the soil. I don't remember how long it lasted when I tried it, but it did not stay indefinitely. Next time consider bark nuggets if you want something decorative, or shredded wood from tree trimmings if you want something free that works but may not be as well groomed in appearance.

I use the free stuff myself.


This post was edited by rosefolly on Sat, Aug 31, 13 at 14:12

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 1:55PM
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